Anatomy of an Idea
Anatomy of an Idea
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
In my travels around Saipan, and by virtue of this column, I’m often asked my opinion of various business ideas and passion-centered projects. Saipanpreneurs, Tinianpreneurs and Rotapreneurs of every background are coming up with ideas for websites, nightclubs, health products, food items, restaurants and various and sundry products and services.
In assessing the practicality and viability of these ideas, there are the usual considerations-What’s your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What are the overhead costs? What is the profit margin? Who will be your suppliers? What’s your Internet strategy? Can you sell to customers overseas?
In addition, in the unique "market in transition" that is the CNMI, there are several additional questions that need to be asked and answered. Among them are: Who is it for? In other words, is there a sufficient market right now to support your business? Are you prepared to hang in there until things turn around?
Who is it for?
Is your idea for locals, tourists, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese or Americans? This question is particularly important if your idea is based on having a physical location here on island. It’s a fact of life on Saipan that not all businesses or even parts of the island are frequented by the wide variety of national, ethnic and cultural groups on island. While there’s nothing wrong with catering to a specific population, (that’s the whole idea behind niche marketing), Saipan is a land in transition with fluctuating demographics. Many of these great ideas are actually limited in scope and appeal to a specific cultural group, which at present, may not have the consistent population, resources or interest to make it viable.
The Long Haul?
Given that things right now are in a state of transition, are you and your business equipped to survive for a few years while the market adjusts? Are you in it to make a quick buck, or is this a long-term idea?
Case in point
Let’s take a look at one specific idea and some of the questions and concerns I have for assessing it. First a little background.
A few months ago, CNMI citizen, comedian, columnist, and cornea-curing clinician David Khorram launched an idea called SaipanThisWeek, envisioned as an online resource for the many weekly, monthly and annual events happening in the CNMI. (Yes, there’s always something to do on Saipan!) After a strong start, interest appeared to wane after a few months, and, at present, the site is not currently being updated.
It's a great idea! It’s not the first time that the need for such a resource has been expressed. Every day, someone, somewhere is asking, "Where can I find out what’s going on this weekend?" or, "Was that this weekend? Darn! I missed it!"
Recently, Ruth Tighe, who will be fielding questions for the SaipanLiving.com category entitled "Saipan-Living-for-formerly-landlocked-expats now-long-time-island-residents-with-a-constructively-critical-activist-bent, and-an-ocean-view," has picked up the banner and the idea. She emailed me a few days ago with her own suggestions for the resurrection of such a site.
[Begin email response:] Yes, there are readily available and free software options for making a site to which people are able to post their individual event information. However, here are a few thoughts:
1. Who is the site for? If for locals (you and me), does the Saipan local community look for events online? Is there enough of a demand for online info to (1.) Encourage people to look for the info, and (2.) Encourage event organizers to invest the time to post?
Is it for tourists? Probably not, unless the site is also available in other languages). If for tourists, a way of making such information accessible at the hotel front desks or through the tour companies might make more sense.
2. Is there a better way? Where might people be more comfortable (i.e. currently) getting such info? Is there a better, more intuitive way that people are currently seeking and/or finding such information?
- Hotel front desks,
- Daily broadcast on TV/radio
- Word of mouth
- tour guides
The challenge SaipanThisWeek site may have faced was that it may have been asking people to change their habits, and thus, as you said, Ruth, required a long-term commitment in order to see that change through)
3. Who will maintain it? We’ll assume that those who have events to publicize would have the necessary incentive to post the event listings, and to do so on a regular basis if that’s required. But what about the task of monitoring and updating the site? There doesn’t appear to be an adequate incentive for you and me to keep such a site going on a regular basis. (i.e. no money, no recognition, no free tickets to the events)
A CASE STUDY
A few years ago, I created a site called FreeSummerConcerts.com which is currently still active. Every year I search the websites of all the New York events (Central Park Summerstage, Lincoln Center, etc,) and compile the summer events in a database. People visit the site, click on the date they’re interested in and access the events for that day. Every year, my mailing list grows, people use the site more frequently and refer their friends. Here are a few of the features and facts of that site that might help us create something similar for the CNMI.
1. Because of the way such events are structured in New York (with a lot of consistency and months, often years of pre-planning), I only have to compile the list one time, over about a two-three week period when the summer’s listings are released-with only minor updates as new events are added later.
2. The duration of the site’s popularity and usefulness is from May to September, so only a seasonal commitment on my part is required.
3. People can opt to visit the site, or have the event listings emailed to them each week.
4. The incentive for me, as owner/operator is a little bit of recognition as creator of the idea, and also a few hundred dollars in passive income as people click on the GoogleT ads I have on the site.
This works stateside, I think, because the numbers support it (NY has a lot of people) and people there are more connected to their computers, and spend more time indoors during the colder months of the year. And, it works on my end because of the rewards built in. So, here's what I think.
My best suggestion, therefore, to fill a similar need here on Saipan might be to encourage the local newspaper to have an events column as part of their paper and website. They’d be able to assign someone to maintain the listings on a regular/paid basis. It would add more value to the paper, and a newspaper is a more intuitive and likely place people look for such listings. They could provide a special Saipan Tribune events insert or supplement to tourists by placing them at the front desks of all the hotels.
(Of course, there are other factors of cost, and historical relationships between the tour companies, hotels and newspapers which I may not be aware of, but without such knowledge, that's my best suggestion.) [End email response]
BUT WAIT, WE’RE NOT DONE YET!
Now, that doesn’t mean the SaipanThisWeek website idea can’t work on its own. It just means, in my opinion, that some incentive has to be built in in order to keep it going and to build on the timeliness and genius of David's idea. Assuming that current habits can be changed, and people will actually go online for event information, let’s take a look at how such an incentive might be incorporated into the site.
Much like any blog or website that’s maintained as a labor of love, a site like this can indeed be maintained long-term by someone with a passion for events who loves to provide information for people to enjoy themselves.
A site like this could be used to support an existing business. Think about it. Can it be a marketing tool for another business? An event planner, sound engineering consultant, sign maker, or any business that profits from events could use a site like this to attract customers for their services.
A site like this could be used to support an individual who becomes known as Saipan’s event guru/critic, who travels around the island viewing and reviewing the events for exposure and publication, thereby providing personal fame and recognition, and perhaps free admission to these events!
Yes, it’s always true that given the right mix of passion and creativity, any idea can see success. The same idea in someone else’s hands can turn from dormant to dynamic! So take all the information here, but never lose sight of the fact that what makes you different in this world can make all the difference in the world!
P.S. If anyone wants to take over the reins of the SaipanThisWeek project, Dr. Khorram has offered use of the domain name along with the blog site. Call 235-9090 or email him through www.MarianasEye.com,
For more tips on acting on your ideas and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!
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Until next time, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!-Walt